The next exhibition in Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s “Selects” series will be guest curated by members of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. Organized by the Wyss Institute’s founding director Don Ingber, in collaboration with his co-faculty, Joanna Aizenberg, Jennifer Lewis, Radhika Nagpal and Pam Silver, the exhibition examines the use of biologically inspired design principles to engineer a better world. On view from July 12 through March 8, 2020, in the Nancy and Edwin Marks Gallery, “Wyss Institute Selects” draws from Cooper Hewitt’s expansive permanent collection and the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and focuses on the concept of Biofuturism.

“As the first scientific institution to guest curate a ‘Selects’ exhibition at Cooper Hewitt, the Wyss Institute has brought together a revelatory selection of objects from our permanent collection that enlist nature as a guide, from a high-performance prosthetic foot inspired by the movement of a cheetah to the tetrahedral shapes appearing in Isamu Noguchi’s rocking stool,” said Caroline Baumann, director of the museum.

Concurrently on view with “Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial,” the exhibition explores the enduring influence of nature on artists and designers, from the beauty of natural forms to the underlying principles that provide living organisms with their incredible strength, resilience and efficiency.

Taking its name from the Futurism movement of the 20th century that embraced the power of technology, Biofuturism, according to the Wyss Institute, looks to nature for inspiration to drive a new wave of technology innovation. Bioinspired technologies are applied to a broad range of medical and industrial applications, as well as to gain further insight into how nature builds, controls and manufactures. On view will be the Robobee, designed by the Wyss Institute, which is the world’s first insect-scale flying robot. It was created to mimic the interactions of bees in response to the alarming collapse of bee colonies worldwide in recent years. Also on view will be items from Stoll’s Performance+ series of athletic garments, which showcase the unique potential of machine knitting in the advancement of smart textile technology. The balaclava incorporates a mesh structure with copper wire that heats air to 104 degrees Fahrenheit before it is inhaled, decreasing the incidence of chest infection among runners and other winter athletes.

The works on view in the Synthetic Biology section of the exhibition range from a textile by aboriginal designer Judith Kngwarreye who creates a landscape of local flora and fauna to a Bioimplantable Device for Reconstructive Shoulder Surgery, designed by Ellis Developments, which mimics the natural fibrous arrays of ligaments and acts as a scaffold for new tissue growth.

Another section of the exhibition will highlight how the beauty and elegance of a single natural form—the spiral—has inspired artists and designers throughout time. Objects range from a helical 18th-century candlestick to the Triton tea service by Arje Griest and Turret earrings by Ted Muehling, which take inspiration from spiral-shaped seashells.

“Wyss Institute Selects” is made possible by the Marks Family Foundation Endowment Fund.


Cooper Hewitt is America’s design museum. Inclusive, innovative and experimental, the museum’s dynamic exhibitions, education programs, master’s program, publications and online resources inspire, educate and empower people through design. An integral part of the Smithsonian Institution—the world’s largest museum and research complex—Cooper Hewitt is located on New York City’s Museum Mile in the historic, landmark Carnegie Mansion. Steward of one of the world’s most diverse and comprehensive design collections—over 210,000 objects that range from an ancient Egyptian faience cup dating to about 1100 BCE to contemporary 3D-printed objects and digital code—Cooper Hewitt welcomes everyone to discover the importance of design and its power to change the world. Cooper Hewitt knits digital into experiences to enhance ideas, extend reach beyond museum walls, and enable greater access, personalization, experimentation and connection.

Cooper Hewitt is located at 2 East 91st Street at Fifth Avenue in New York City. Hours are Sunday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden, accessible without an admissions ticket, opens at 8 a.m., Monday through Friday. The Tarallucci e Vino café is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Public transit routes include the Lexington Avenue 4, 5 and 6 subways (86th or 96th Street stations), the Second Avenue Q subway (96th Street station), and the Fifth and Madison Avenue buses. Adult admission, $16 in advance via, $18 at door; seniors, $10 in advance via, $12 at door; students, $7 in advance via, $9 at door; visitors with disabilities, $10. Cooper Hewitt members and children younger than age 18 are admitted free. Pay What You Wish every Saturday, 6 to 9 p.m. The museum is fully accessible.

For further information, call (212) 849-8400, visit Cooper Hewitt’s website at and follow the museum on, and


The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University uses nature’s design principles to develop bioinspired materials and devices that will transform medicine and create a more sustainable world. Wyss researchers are developing innovative new engineering solutions for healthcare, energy, architecture, robotics and manufacturing that are translated into commercial products and therapies through collaborations with clinical investigators, corporate alliances and formation of new startups. The Wyss Institute creates transformative technological breakthroughs by engaging in high risk research and crossing disciplinary and institutional barriers.


IMAGES: Poster, Hydrodynamics, L’Atome au Service de la Paix (Atoms for Peace), 1955; Designed by Erik Nitsche (Swiss, 1908–1998) for General Dynamics Corporation (Falls Church, Virginia, U.S.); Offset lithograph on paper mounted on canvas; Gift of Arthur Cohen and Daryl Otte in memory of Bill Moggridge, 2013-42-9.

Save Our Earth, 2009; Designed by Joanna Aizenberg (Russian, b. 1960) and Wim Noorduin (Dutch, b. 1980); Synthetic cilia demonstrating the principle of self-assembly around a spherical nanosphere and illustrated through scanning electron micrograph with false color; Each synthetic cilium is approximately the size of a naturally occurring cilium (200 nanometers in diameter); Courtesy of Aizenberg Lab and Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.